Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day of the First Decade of the New Millennium

Some say out with the old, in with the new.

It's been nearly three months since I posted here. Been biding my time I suppose with the cocktail-party chat of Facebook. But my friend Sharon reminded me about the blog today and so I sit down to write. It's New Year's Eve, 2009. I've just had a Cecil's poppy seed hamitashin with a glass of milk (Oh Lord, one of my favorite local snacks) and I've got on the Oklahoma/Stanford Sun Bowl. It's in El Paso, Texas, my birthplace. I love Stanford's running back, Gerhardt, and he's had a good game. Stanford's coach I don't love so much. Guy goes ballistic on the sidelines, like too many other big-time coaches these days.

I've been thinking of taking a trip to El Paso, so it's fun to see it as backdrop to this college game. I haven't been back since I was five, since my dad and our family were transferred to Oklahoma in the Sixties, before Dad left for Vietnam. I remember some things about this spot in Texas: the heat, of course; the mountains nearby; the snake pits; the way my family felt during the five years we were stationed there. Recently my mom spoke venomously about the place, running it down hard and shaking her head over our time there. She got so worked up I finally had to say "Hey, that's my birthplace you're running down." She looked at me and said, "Why, you have no attachment to that place, do you? You probably don't even remember it." "Yeah, sure I do," I said with a little more force than I expected. Lately I've been pondering my mom's remarks and their effects on me. She'll be extra careful when she thinks there is an issue to tip-toe around--but the rest of us don't. And then she'll be strident about some things that a few of us happen to hold dear to our hearts. I can't write it off completely to her getting older, though she did just turn 70. I guess I can recognize my growing intolerance for her biting words because I'm getting older. Recently, in my bedside journal, I wrote: "I need to learn how to assert myself more without the fear of damaging my relationships." I was thinking of this one relationship in particular. . . .

Wow, what a tough year: 2009. My husband lost his job earlier in the year when the small business he worked for closed its doors. I've been tracking this recession by his street-stumping in sales now for Canon. Hardly anyone is buying much right now, business-to-business. It took him three months to close a big deal, and even then he wasn't lowest bidder. I've tracked in other ways, too. My own organization had deep budget cuts in June and I had to lay off three of our staffers. I was feeling this holiday like I could sleep for weeks and then realized I've been sleeping fitfully for over 90 days and 90 nights. One of our intern candidates dropped out because she couldn't secure a student loan for last fall. Our high-earning, lawyer-neighbor across the street was laid off and tried to start up a neighborhood blog. I think it was a futile attempt because as managing attorney he was always working, or playing golf on Saturdays, so none of us really knew him well enough. I see now that he is back to work again.

I lost two dear friends in the fall. My colleague Will and my elderly mentor and friend, Marilyn. I still get teary when I think long about both of them. I learned a great deal from Will and Marilyn and I always felt they had my best interests at heart. They seemed to know what was dear to me and what I was striving for and weren't afraid to gently redirect me if they thought it might help. I went to them for advice. The strength of their advice and my trust in it doesn't limit me now that they are gone. I think it has prompted me to seek out wisdom more now than before. Marilyn ran the children's division for the Wilder Foundation, working her way up to vice-president of this esteemed social service organization. She was a good conversationalist and an astute leader and I always looked forward to conversations with her. She seemed like a character right out of Cynthia Rylant's children's books: strictly Norwegian, tiny, stooped, with a double-stacked bun of wrapped gray hair on the top of her head, light as a bird's nest but disproportionate to her small frame. We just lunched with her widow, Owen, and he said he misses most her companionship. He said that it isn't the silence in the house because much of their later years Marilyn and he lived quiet lives. But as he worked on his stocks downstairs and she worked on her many correspondences upstairs, he had a feeling of safety and comfort.

In so many ways I wish I could wipe the slate clean and begin 2010 anew. But it's in the memory of these friends that I know we all carry things forward. I feel optismtic about so much to come. Megan will graduate from college in the spring. Tim turns sixteen. We'll have a new design manager at work. Our sales are up and we have really good books in the hopper. This summer, I'll return for a week of writing at Mallard Island in Rainy Lake. I have high hopes for the eradication of those slimy slugs in my gardens. I'll maybe travel south. I'll think about asserting myself more in small ways--or large. Watch out. I may be asking you for advice on that.